Everyone is obsessed with ratings – companies are hunting for 5-star ratings to impress potential customers. Customers try to punish or even blackmail businesses with 1-star ratings for poor performance.
When Google, Yelp, Amazon and others “invented” rating systems, they introduced a seemingly great tool for consumers to make good decisions when buying goods and services. The idea is that good companies get a lot of 5-star ratings, bad companies end up with 1-star ratings…
But as it turns out, poorly run businesses can have 5-star ratings and companies that are known for their great customer service sometimes earn 1-star ratings – how is that possible?
Despite the strict rules that Google and others have introduced for the use of reviews, there is lots of ways to abuse the system. While it is ok to encourage customer feedback through a review, some black sheep go as far as rewarding or even paying for good reviews – a practice that, when caught, can lead to the exclusion of a business from the rating system. All rating agencies subscribe to these rules – enforcement is much more difficult… Hint: If no reviews can be found when checking a company this may be the reason…
But a more severe abuse happens regularly where businesses pay reviewers for a negative review of a competitor!
The bottom line is that the rating systems can be “performance indicators”, but cannot be trusted. What can a consumer do?
- Be critical of reviews – they may paint a realistic picture – or the opposite!
- Don’t just look at the numbers (e.g. 3.8 out of 5), but read as many of the reviews as possible and look for common themes – it may be an indicator of a real problem (or a real strength).
- Check how companies responded to reviews, especially negative reviews.
- Reviews are not meant to make decisions for you – they should only be a small part of your research. Get all the facts and compare the products or services of all the options that you are considering!
By Peter Schlieck